Tag Archives: The First Phone Call from Heaven

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom (4/5)

20 Feb

Mitch Albom is from Detroit and he does a lot of book signings in my area as a result. A good friend of mine and I went to hear him speak a few years ago and I got a copy of his latest (at the time) signed. I hate taking signed books out of my apartment, so using an audio version of this book made the most sense to me. It was a nice, quick read.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

My past post on Meeting Mitch Albom

Summary from Goodreads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief–and a page-turner that will touch your soul–Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

I’ve read and listened to a few of Albom’s books before and this seems right in line with his style. He’s going to talk about Christianity without hitting you over the head with it and he’s also going to talk about doubting religion and that strengthening belief. This book was hard to read only because my Christian side wanted to believe and my reader side wanted to think ‘Magical Realism’ but following a character who doubted so strongly made me doubt, too. I wasn’t sure what to think until the end, which I’ll avoid talking about. I liked the ride, though. The breadth of characters covered the topic well and gave me someone to commiserate with each step of the way.

I liked that there were characters who were strong believers, skeptics, and people who went through all stages of belief and disbelief along the way. I think that’s a fair representation of how humanity would respond to such a miracle. I’ve often wondered if a great prophet came to Earth, would we believe him or her? Would we discredit this person or recognize that he/she is the one we’ve been waiting for? I think Albom must have wondered something similar when he wrote this book. Some believed it immediately, dropping everything and moving to Coldwater while the miracle was happening. Others came out of anger and a lot kept at arms distance and waited for proof that the whole thing was real. I liked how the people of Coldwater went through this as well, even those receiving the calls. It seemed real and made me wonder where I would fall if calls like that really happened.

Jack was my favorite character. I thought the way he dealt with his son’s calls was really believable. At first he wants to keep them to himself and not call attention to himself, which I could see a police officer wanting to do. I liked seeing his internal struggle to tell his ex-wife and how he told Tess to commiserate with her. I think he really struggled with believing Robby was really talking to him and thought that if he said it out loud, he would have to believe it.

I think I would have trouble believing something as wondrous as phone calls from Heaven at first. I think I would be like Elias or Jack and think it was someone trying to trick me for a while, testing the miracle to see if it stood on its own two feet before I could buy in completely. Even Pastor Warren was skeptical and Father Carole called in his boss to make a decision. This helped me feel like it was OK to doubt but to question and not discredit something that could be a miracle.

Me and Mitch

Me and Mitch Albom, 2013.

I love Sully’s story. It was so moving and complicated and I thought Albom did a great job of balancing all of the conflicting feelings inside Sully. I was scared for a second that he was going to give him a romantic relationship with Liz but I think the way that ended was for the best. Sully was looking out for his son most of all and on his journey to protect the boy, he ended up neglecting him a bit. He needed to refocus his priorities and Liz helped him do this.

I didn’t’ like Amy’s character very much. She was really self-focused and I felt like she was taking advantage of Katherine the whole book. Even when she was taken off the story, she stayed with Katherine because she had no where else she wanted to be. She didn’t even seem to care when her fiance left her and didn’t try to hard to contact him. She seemed unimportant to the plot and just fulfilled Albom’s desire to have a reporter character in the story.

Albom narrated the audiobook himself which I really liked. He gave the characters the voices he wrote them with. There were a few instances of him using audio effects like knocking and thumping to enhance the story which I really liked. He narrated well but that can be expected from a radioman. I hope he does his other audiobooks as well.

All of the characters struggled with belief. Even Catherine, who believed immediately and spread the word, struggled with others not believing her and how to handle those who doubted her. The characters were very representative of Christians that I’ve met. Some believe with all of their hearts and struggle to see how others can live without the faith they have. Others used to believe but have fallen away from God for one reason or another. Others don’t believe and many are somewhere in the middle. The book brought up something incredible that effected people’s faith in different ways and showed how no one Christian is exactly like another and how things can shake or build faith depending on how they’re perceived.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought Albom had almost too many characters. I struggled a bit to keep Jack and Jeff straight and I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the TV people besides Amy. I’m glad he didn’t include all of the people receiving phone calls but I thought he could have focused on just a few less to help the reader keep more of them straight.

This was a solid book that helped me see how strong my faith is. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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WWW Wednesday, 15-February-2017

15 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!


The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.

phone-callCurrently reading: My husband and I were finally able to listen to some of Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. We had four hours in the car and got through some of it. This is a really long book so we might be at this one for a while. We have next weekend to get through a bit more.
I’ve been making steady progress on The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler during lunch and doctor’s appointments. I’ll keep it up at this pace as much as I can. Lunch has also transformed itself into a study time for me which might take over a bit.
I started reading Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling. It’s great reading this now because it’s moving super fast and I can pick it up and put it down easily as school makes other demands on my time. I should finish it soon.
I also started The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom on audio. Albom narrates the story which is a fun twist. He loves basing his books here in Michigan (where he’s also from) which makes fun reading for me!

awayRecently finished: I knocked out Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling really fast. Celebrity memoirs tend to be fast reads and I enjoyed getting through this one fast. My review will come up tomorrow so look out for that.
My review of Away by Amy Bloom posted yesterday. I liked the book but was disappointed by the ending. I thought it seemed like the main character gave up at the end and that disappointed me.

My review of El misterio de la guia de  ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie posted last Thursday. Thanks again to those who commented on it, I’m really excited about having finished it so quickly!

nightsoldiersReading Next: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst is in transit! I should be able to pick it up from the library soon and get started on it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Recently Added to my To-Read List

6 Dec

This seems to be about a weekly feature. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on any of these!

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. This book seemed to be sneaking at the edge of my periphery. It’s been on my Goodreads recommendations and when it popped up again on my Book Calendar, I gave in and added it. I’m surprised to see it’s less than 100 pages! The story is told through the actual letters between Hanff and a second-hand bookseller in London. It somewhat reminds me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
  2. In One Person by John Irving. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I have a love for everything John Irving. I wrote about it in a post last week. I can’t help myself when I see one of his books so this being on the bargain shelf at Barnes & Nobel made my day. The story follows the struggles of a bi-sexual man in search of inner meaning.
  3. The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom. This is the book I had Albom sign when Nicole and I met him last week. It’s his latest and (at time of writing) #4 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list. In a small town in Northern Michigan, the phone starts ringing and those on the other end are calling from Heaven. Is it a hoax or the real thing? I can’t wait to find out!
  4. The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch. This book is yet another Goodreads First Reads win. Finch tells the story of a young Yale graduate who looks to escape the disappointments of his life by taking a year at Oxford. As a student, I studied abroad in England so this struck home with me and I’m excited to give it a read.

So that’s it for now. Do I have any winners? Any duds? Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear!

Until next time, write on.

Meeting Mitch Albom

2 Dec

I’ve developed this obsession with getting autographed books. It might be better defined as I love meeting published authors, but when I meet them I have to buy their book and have them sign it. So yeah, slight obsession.

Nicole and I went to meet Mitch Albom at a local Barnes and Noble last Tuesday. I found the event on Goodreads and I was more than a little excited about it. If you’re unfamiliar, Mitch Albom is from Detroit and write for the Detroit Free Press. He’s the author of bestsellers such as Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People you Meet in Heaven, and the most recent The First Phone Call From Heaven. This last one is the reason for his current book tour. It will debut at #1 on the NYT Bestseller list this week (or so he says).

We got to the event and purchased our copies at which point we were assigned to Group C. Mitch gave a few opening comments when he arrived and I was really impressed by him. He’s home for Thanksgiving so is doing some signings in the area which I thought was very sweet. His nephews were somewhere in the store, though I didn’t meet them. He spoke about the book and how his mother influenced him. She suffered a stroke that left her unable to talk and Mitch wanted to write about the power of hearing a person’s voice which brought about the idea of those who have passed away calling back to Earth. Let’s say I’m more than excited to read this.

My excited face when I met Mitch Albom. Please notice the security detail hiding his face.

My excited face when I met Mitch Albom. Please notice the security detail hiding his face.

We milled around for an hour and a half (I only bought two more books!) before we were called and we got in line. At that point we only waited about a half hour before we got to meet Mitch Albom! We were both nervous balls of energy, but he had such a calming personality that we weren’t intimidated at all.

I took the time to ask him the question I’ve decided I’ll ask all authors. “I want to be where you are. What can I do to get there?” Mitch took the time to give me a really good answer. After saying I wanted to be where he is, he offered to get up and let me take a seat but I argued my signature was not as sought after. He asked me where I was in life and I told him I worked full-time and have now finished two manuscripts. I loved his answer; He told me to read.

Please note security detail again.

Nicole’s excited face. Please note security detail again.

He said to read things I didn’t like, things I didn’t write about people I didn’t like. When we write, we need to create characters and those characters might be people we don’t like. When you read something outside of your comfort zone, you learn a new voice and that’s a voice you can use in a character that is distinctly different from yourself. I spoke in my post last Tuesday about how my first draft characters are always a lot like me. This advice seemed really timely. When I spoke to my husband upon arriving at home, he agreed that he sees too much of me in my female characters. I’ve done alright with the male characters, but reading books about women different from myself will help me be able to write distinct feminine voices.

I really appreciated the time Mitch took to answer my question when 200 other people wanted a minute of his time. A huge thanks to the people at Barnes and Noble who made the event run smoothly. I hope that one day I can take that seat from Mitch and be able to proudly sit there, knowing I’ve accomplished my dream.

Until next time, write on.